John Fletcher

Fletcher, John, 1579–1625, English dramatist, b. Rye, Sussex, educated at Cambridge. A member of a prominent literary family, he began writing for the stage about 1606, first with Francis Beaumont, with whom his name is inseparably linked, later with Massinger and others. Fletcher may have collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. He is also thought the principal author of Double Falsehood (first published 1727), in which Shakespeare may have had a hand. Though there is great uncertainty in dating the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, their chief works appeared between 1607 and 1613. In Philaster, A Maid's Tragedy, A King and No King, and The Scornful Lady, they developed the form of the romance tragicomedy, which came to characterize a whole generation of later plays. In these plays a potentially tragic situation is developed until, at the end, through a twist of plot a happy solution is effected. A prolific writer, he enjoyed great success in many genres because of his entertaining and accessible poetry, his masterful use of sexual intrigue, and the refined composition of his work.

See edition of the works of Beaumont and Fletcher by F. Bowers (7 vol., 1966–); studies by E. Waith (1952), A. E. Thorndike (1965), and J. H. Wilson (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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